A Japanese cabinet minister and dozens of members of parliament visited the Yasukuni Shrine for war dead on Tuesday to mark an autumn festival at the shrine, seen in China and the two Koreas as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.
Kyodo news agency said Yasuhisa Shiozaki, minister for health, labour and welfare, was among about 80 lawmakers who visited the shrine.
The group visit came a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to the shrine, prompting a sharp rejoinder from China and a reminder from Tokyo’s close ally Washington of the importance of reconciliation over the past.
Visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni have outraged China and South Korea because the shrine honours 14 Japanese leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals, along with other war dead.
Abe has visited the shrine in person only once, in December 2013, since becoming premier the previous year. Eager to improve ties with China and South Korea, strained by territorial and other disputes, he has instead opted to send ritual offerings on several occasions.
There was no sign that Defence Minister Tomomi Inada, who has been accused by China of recklessly misrepresenting wartime history, had visited or made an offering at the shrine.
On the previous customary occasion for high-profile Yasukuni visits, the August 15 anniversary of Japan’s World War Two surrender, the newly appointed Inada was visiting troops in Djibouti and unable to go to the shrine.